Last week, I wrote about worrying -- and why it's not only needless but also shows a lack of faith. I also offered you a challenge to begin keeping a list of things you're grateful for. Little did I know that I would need the message I had shared with you last week to be firmly in my mind and heart by the end of the week.
Someone very dear to me took an ambulance ride to the hospital on Friday morning, not for health problems that had plagued her much of the summer, but for something new, something scarier, something life-threatening. But she was in good hands, in God's hands. And she got to the hospital in time.
As I walked to and from her room each day, the blur of activity in the hallways dizzied me. But the experience filled me with items for my gratitude list. I hope you don't mind me sharing some of them with you.
These last few days, I have found myself grateful for ...
... taking a bouquet of flowers to a hospital room instead of a graveside.
... the constant bubbling of a life-giving oxygen machine that became soothing instead of annoying.
... the seemingly never-ending supply of patience in the nursing staff.
... emails and texts and phone calls from all over the country to let us know we weren't sitting in that room alone.
... a tremor of an earthquake that rocked the building but didn't bring it down.
... the kind eyes and smile and laughter of a visiting pastor right after the building moved.
... getting to head home with eyes tired, but not full of tears.
That last one stabs me with a bit of ... what ... survivor's guilt, perhaps? You see, two nights ago, as I was leaving the hospital, there was an elderly woman standing in the hallway with raw grief breaking down over her. Family and hospital staff circled around her. Not saying much, but simply standing with her as the grief flowed out of her.
I silently flung a prayer up to heaven on her behalf. But I also thanked God that I was not in a circle of my own family and friends and hospital staff with the grief pouring over me. That seems wrong and selfish, but it was my honest reaction.
Praying for that stranger in the hallway also gave me a jolt outside of myself. I was no longer simply focusing on me and what I wanted to ask God for myself and the person I was there at the hospital visiting. I was able to see someone else in greater need of prayer for comfort, for God's presence, for emotional healing.
Most of us worry, but it's usually not about the unexpected things that are going to happen in our lives to take us out of our daily routine. Most of us will experience raw grief at some point in our lives. But the grief will come regardless of whether we worry about it ahead of time.
My hope is to be able to greet the raw grief -- when it eventually comes -- armed with praise for God on my lips. Because if I've learned anything in the last few days, it's that gratitude really is an armor of protection. Not to save me from experiencing grief. I can't dodge that. No, it's an armor that reminds me to lift my eyes to the One who loves me and will sustain me and carry me through whatever times of worry and grief lie ahead.